Talk by Andrea Benucci, UCL, given to the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at UC Berkeley on October 28, 2009.
It is known that visual stimuli are encoded by the concerted activity of large populations of neurons in visual cortical areas. However, it is only recently that recording techniques have been made available to study such activations from large ensembles of neurons simultaneously, with millisecond temporal precision and tens of microns spatial resolution. I will present data from voltage-sensitive dye (VSD) imaging and multi-electrode recordings (“Utah” probes) from the primary visual cortex of the cat (V1). I will discuss the relationship between two fundamental cortical maps of the visual system: the map of retinotopy and the map of orientation. Using spatially localized and full-field oriented stimuli, we studied the functional interdependency of these maps. I will describe traveling and standing waves of cortical activity and their key role as a dynamical substrate for the spatio-temporal coding of visual information. I will further discuss the properties of the spatio-temporal code in the context of continuous visual stimulation. While recording population responses to a sequence of oriented stimuli, we asked how responses to individual stimuli summate over time. We found that such rules are mostly linear, supporting the idea that spatial and temporal codes in area V1 operate largely independently. However, these linear rules of summation fail when the visual drive is removed, suggesting that the visual cortex can readily switch between a dynamical regime where either feed-forward or intra-cortical inputs determine the response properties of the network.